The Anxiety and Agoraphobia Treatment Center
There is Hope. There is Help.
Call: 610-667-6490
112 Bala Avenue
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

Compulsive Hair Pulling/Skin Picking/Other Habit Disorders


About Compulsive Hair Pulling/Skin Picking/Other Habit Disorders:

Compulsive hair pulling (trichotillomania) is a disorder in which people pull out hair from various parts of their body (e.g., their scalp, face, arms, legs, pubic area) or sometimes from their pets. In many instances the hair pulling results in bald patches. The strength of the urge varies.

Compulsive skin picking (excoriation) is a disorder in which people compulsively pick pimples, scabs and other imperfections on their skin. Depending on severity, skin picking may result in red marks, scab, scars and disfigurement.

Hair pulling, skin picking and other habit disorders are often preceded by an emotional feeling of tension or anxiety. During episodes of pulling and skin picking, feelings of relief, relaxation or even dissociation (i.e., zoning out) occur. After episodes of pulling and skin picking, feelings of guilt, shame and depression are common. Hair pulling and skin picking can interfere with daily activities by taking up significant time, causing lateness or by causing the person to avoid certain activities or social interactions. There are many different triggers of pulling and skin picking and the specific triggers vary from person to person.

Treatment of compulsive hair pulling/skin picking/other habit disorders:

AATC offers a specialized form of cognitive behavioral treatment called Habit-Reversal Training and Stimulus Control—the first-line treatment for all habit disorders. The therapist works with the child or adolescent to treat the child’s specific triggers and emotional responses. Treatment includes education about the disorder, increase of awareness of the triggers of the habit and the development of strategies to reduce its occurrence. Once the occurrence of the habit is reduced, the urge to engage in the behavior is reduced accordingly.

There is also a supportive component to therapy that allows the child to discuss life stressors and concerns. Parents are educated on the tools their child is learning so they can support a child’s progress outside of treatment. With parent permission, our therapists will work with your child’s school, pediatrician, psychiatrist and other community providers as needed.

Our focus is on treating the “whole child,” so issues other than anxiety may also be addressed in treatment.

For more information regarding treatment for children and adolescents, or to schedule an initial evaluation for your child, please contact Dr. Lori Kasmen at (610) 667-6490 ext 21 or lkasmen@aatcphila.com